Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spontaneous Regeneration

Last year I decided to experiment with potatoes. I only had three garden beds to rotate my veggies in and there was no more room in the Solanaceae bed (the tomatoes, eggplants and peppers were already filling it). I decided to try a method I’d read about for growing potatoes in wine barrels; I had three unoccupied wine barrels leftover from the container garden days.

I ordered my potatoes (All Blue, La Ratte Fingerling, and Yellow Finn) and followed directions for growing them in barrels. At first, things were going well- the plants were growing, I mounded more straw onto them as they did, and the Yellow Finns threatened to outgrow their barrel. This went on for maybe a couple weeks or a couple months… and then I went on vacation. They weren’t watered in my absence and they didn’t fare well. When I came back they were looking distinctly peaked and after several weeks I came to the conclusion that I had killed my potatoes. Oh well, every garden project can’t work out, right?

Well, I continued to ignore them for the rest of the season. I didn’t need the barrels for anything else and I wasn’t even curious enough to see if anything had grown. They didn’t even reach the point of flowering so I figured it was a lost cause. That is, until this weekend.

On Saturday I was out in the garden for the first extended period of time since planting the garlic and onions (November). I was tidying up, taking stock of the winter veggie bed and determining that something was happily feasting on my Brassicae. As I walked back toward the house I spied something green poking out of the eastern wine barrel. I did a double take. I jumped over to it and could not believe my eyes: a potato leaf! In January 2011! From potatoes I planted in March of 2010! That I killed!

La Ratte lives!

Upon further investigation I concluded that ALL THREE of my wine barrels contain potato plants. I am beyond excited. I have no idea how well they will fare and whether or not there will be anything worth eating out of those barrels but I don’t care. It seems these little guys thrive on benign neglect and I intend to give it to them. At this rate I might even have some new potatoes to harvest come St. Paddy’s Day. If I do I’ll be celebrating both my Irish heritage and the Potato’s Amazing Power of Spontaneous Regeneration.

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